With COVID-19 cases on the rise in Quebec, Quebec’s Health Ministry launched their fall vaccination campaign on October 10. Approximately 100 service centers will participate in the campaign to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
Dr. Donald Vinh, infectious diseases specialist at the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC), said that COVID-19 is “making a comeback.” Vinh stated that “in the first week of September alone, there were 127,000 confirmed cases of COVID, excluding approximately 560,000 people who self-reported viral respiratory symptoms but did not get tested.” He concluded that there is a “significant increase [in COVID-19 cases] over what was happening in August.”
COVID-19 is projected to circulate more as the weather gets colder. Raymond Tellier, Associate Professor in the McGill Depart of Medicine with an expertise in coronaviruses, explained to the Daily that respiratory viruses “tend to have a seasonal peak in the autumn and the winter time.” Part of this is due to the increase in spending time indoors. Tellier said that inside, “the air is more dry and there is less humidity, which can favour the survival of the aerosols of several viruses.”
Quebec’s Health Ministry wants to find the “best window” to vaccinate Quebecers to minimize the increase in COVID-19 infections. Health Minister Christian Dubé said that “the worst of the pandemic arrives in December-January” and because the “vaccine is good for at least six months”, the Quebec Health Ministry is starting their campaign now to ensure the maximum coverage of the vaccination.
Health services participating in the campaign offer an updated version of a COVID-19 mRNA vaccine by Moderna, which targets the Omicron XBB.1.5 subvariant. Authorized on September 12 for people ages six months and older, the Moderna vaccine also targets EG.5.1, the current predominant subvariant in Quebec.
Dr. Tellier explained that EG.5.1 is a descendant of the XBB variant, which was the variant chosen when creating the updated vaccine: “It looks like the current vaccine would be an excellent match for the variants that are circulating right now”.
On Thursday, September 28, Health Canada also authorized the new Pfizer-BioNTech Comirnaty drug for individuals ages six months and older, which targets the same COVID-19 subvariant. The Pfizer vaccine will be available in the coming weeks as part of Quebec’s campaign.
Dr. Caroline Quach-Thanh, pediatric infectious diseases specialist at the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire Sainte-Justine and president of Quebec’s immunization committee, advised vulnerable populations to get the Moderna vaccine as soon as they are able to instead of delaying their vaccination to wait for the Pfizer shot, as both are effective at preventing negative effects of the virus.
For the first time, Quebec will also offer free Influenza vaccines on a widespread basis, meaning that individuals can visit the same health service to be vaccinated against both the flu and COVID-19 simultaneously.
Alexandra Peebles, McGill Medical Student and Research Assistant with Dr. Nicole Basta, encouraged McGill students to take advantage of Quebec’s vaccine campaign. For one, vaccinations “reduce the risk of transmitting COVID to others, which could save lives down the line.” In addition, Peebles explained to the Daily that students should get vaccinated to prevent the long term risks associated with COVID-19. She stated that “as a student, a huge concern, in my opinion, would be suffering from long COVID. Common symptoms of long COVID include fatigue, brain fog [and] shortness of breath. These symptoms can make studying, working, or exercising all the more challenging.”
As Dr. Tellier shared, long COVID is particularly dangerous because “we don’t completely understand the mechanisms of long COVID and we don’t know the risk factors.” However, getting vaccinated can reduce this risk by lowering the probability of catching the virus: “All we know right now is that the best way not to get long COVID is not to get COVID!”
Dr. Tellier continued to note the impressive power of the COVID-19 vaccine: “I am a big fan of this vaccine. It is remarkable that they could come up with it so fast because when this pandemic started, not only did we not have a vaccine, we did not even know if it was possible to make a vaccine against this kind of virus. It’s not done before, not for humans.”
As of October 2, people in long-term care homes and private senior’s residences are now able to get both the flu shot and the updated COVID-19 vaccines. All other individuals are able to get vaccinated from October 10.
Peebles emphasized that “you do not need to be a Quebec resident to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. This applies to anyone, McGill student or not.”
To book an appointment, visit the ClicSanté website and select the COVID-19 icon before following the steps to confirm your booking.
Rapid COVID-19 tests are also available free of charge in Quebec’s various vaccination centres, schools, daycares and pharmacies.
For more information, visit Vaccination contre les infections respiratoires | Gouvernement du Québec.